Thursday, March 26, 2009

Down in the Valley

I just finished spending 3 great weeks in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. In 10 years of RVing, I had never been here. I went to lots of dances, at different RV Parks with huge dance floors and live bands. This is what the valley is most know for. This was my favorite, at the "Tip of Texas."

I was curious as to how "The Valley" differed from the Yuma area, where I usually spend my winters. For one thing, the Winter Texans seem a little older than what I'm used to, but I had a great time, and everyone was really nice.

In addition to the dances, I also went to a few shows. The best show one was Tupelo and Janey Kenyon, known as "Laughing Bird." Tupelo played a 12-string guitar by picking, rather than strumming. Janey had a great voice and played a variety of percussion instruments. She played a mouth bow in this unusual version of "Dueling Banjos," a favorite of mine.

If you're my age, you probably watched Sesame Street with your kids and may remember Buffy Sainte-Marie playing a rather simple mouth bow on the show, with a little help from Fred the Wonder Horse. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist putting this in.)

Laughing Bird had quite an entertaining show. She sang a beautiful rendition of Patsy Cline's "She's Got You," pulling not only the picture, the record, and the class ring from her bodice, but also lots of other stuff, including a fishing pole!

We went back to Neuvo Progreso, Mexico, for their annual Tourist Day. It was a real zoo.

I thought these potato chips were really unusual.

Crossing back over the bridge to the US, hats held by hands were begging from under the bridge. So sad.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pepe's on the River

I've been hearing about Pepe's for quite a while now, so I finally got to go.

It's made like a giant palapa, open on the sides. There used to be 2 Pepe's, one owned by each son of the original Pepe, but Pepe's II is falling into the river and no longer open.

The place was packed, and we had trouble finding a seat. We finally ended up at a picnic table outside, right behind the band.

Pepe's is located right on the Rio Grande River. That's Mexico over there. Apparently when the border wall comes through here, Pepe's will be on the wrong side of the wall. I don't know what will happen then.

A popular thing to do is hit a golf ball out of the country. How many people can say they've done that?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Mexican Border Town

I'd been to Algodones, near Yuma, AZ, many times, so I was curious how Progreso, across the Rio Grande River from the southern tip of Texas, differed. As with Algodones, you walk across the border, this time across a 25-cent toll bridge.

Halfway across is the official border.

This town is full of pharmacies, dentists, and optical places, just like Algodones, but seems to have a better variety of goods for sale. There were also several vet pharmacies, something I wish Algodones would have.

The real difference here is the Mexican military presence. Why here? And why at the exit from Mexico? Are they afraid someone will blast their way out? Lots of Uzi-toting soldiers in bullet-proof vests, behind barricades.

And even a tank! I just don't get it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Circus and the Beach

I'm a real sucker for circuses. There was a small traveling one, the Kelly Miller Circus, on the way down to the Rio Grande Valley.

The elephants were pretty good.

But what I liked most was the fact that the performers tried new things, and didn't care if they made it or not. And the audience didn't either. This guy attempted a triple somersault on the trapeze. (I don't know why this looks black, but click on the arrow to see the video.)

I finally made it to "the Valley," and the first thing I wanted to do was go see South Padre Island. The Port Isabel Lighthouse operated from 1853-1905.

The lighthouse keeper's cottage had an interesting water system.

I climbed to the top of the lighthouse, where I got a glimpse of the island in the distance. Not what I was expecting, I thought it would be bare beach with RVs parked on it.

You can still drive your car and take your RV on the beach, but the price has gone up so much that I only saw a few.

I was amazed by all the shells on the beach.

And the pelicans were really cute.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Racing Across Texas

Well, maybe not THAT fast! I have never been to the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas, so I thought it would be a good place to visit before the Bandera Dance Rally.

Interstate 10 across the Western part of Texas seemed to have more trucks than cars.

With lots of scary signs along the way.

I stopped in Sonora, Texas to see the famous Caverns there. They have a nice campground there with a resident peacock and peahen. (OMG - I stayed in a campground! But keep in mind there is no public land in the state of Texas, except for National Parks.)

The tour is a little pricey - $20 -- but well worth it. Certainly the most beautiful I've ever seen, if not the biggest.

There are no huge rooms, as in Carlsbad, but the formations are amazing. Scott, our guide, used a flashlight to point out little intricacies.

The paved trail led right through the formations. We walked almost 2 miles underground, through many different rooms and tunnels.

Lots of them are covered with what looks like popcorn.

Even the stalagmites and stalactites were covered in "popcorn."

Several places had tiny "soda straws" hanging from the ceiling. I had never seen anything like that before, and I've been to several of the most popular and well-known caves.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

WIN Dance Rally

Wait a minute! Am I in the right place?

Actually, I arrived a day early, and there was a sheep/rabbit show and competition going on.

Ever wonder how the sheep's legs are so black? Spray paint! Isn't this cheating?

And then they are carefully vacuumed.

The rabbit show featured 40 different varieties, ranging from 2 1/2 to 18 pounds.

Each variety was carefully judged. This is a real subculture!

Finally, the Dance Rally started. Of course, a lot of it involved eating. We had a pot luck,

And an "Eat Desert First" celebration, in honor of our friend Weezie who passed away last year. There were lots of deserts, but the highlight was this cake.

The decorations were amazing. These walls are normally plain white. Route 66 went all the way around the room, from Chicago to Santa Monica. Lots of Route 66 photos and trivia. I did my part, making large photos of 20 different WINs rigs, and their owners. Of course I did one of me.

Judy gave dance lessons for 4 1/2 days. She insists on using 1-2-3-5 to teach, which drives me crazy. I feel it's okay for those who know something about music, and don't have trouble keeping a beat, but is really hard for those who don't.

At night, there were dances, most run by DJ Jim.

On Saturday night, Dakota Kid performed.

This was supposed to be our last dance rally at the Casa Grande fairgrounds, but unfortunately, we renegotiated and are going back next year. The least they could do is fix the cracks in the concrete, but they haven't yet.

But the local inmates do provide frequent cleanings.